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Views from the Center

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Japan Should Release Surplus Rice ahead of G8

Over the past few weeks, rice consumers in Africa and other developing countries have watched anxiously as world prices have fallen steadily, at least in part due to our insistence that Japan and other countries have stocks that can be released on world markets . It is now clear that the speculative bubble has burst -- the "dynamic" in the market is bearish despite set-backs on individual policy fronts. The pressures on rice prices continue to be downward despite everything governments are doing to keep prices up.

Giving Suharto His Due

I was of two minds as to whether or not to join in the analysis of Suharto's legacy, but I decided that I cannot let stand some of what I have read about Suharto, Indonesia's strongman president for 31 years, who died on Sunday at the age of 86. For those who don't know me: I was the World Bank's country director in Jakarta from 1994 to 1999. I was present during Indonesia's financial crisis and when Suharto was forced out of office in May, 1998.

Folsom's Departure Creates Opening to Fix The World Bank Fight Against Corruption

Suzanne Rich Folsom, the controversial head of the World Bank's internal anti-corruption unit, resigned yesterday to return to the private sector. With Ms. Folsom's departure almost all of Paul Wolfowitz's inner circle has now left the Bank. I expect that some of the Bank's critics will cast this turn of events as victory of the bank bureaucracy over the forces of good in a fight for truth, justice, the American way, and, most especially, zero corruption.

The Value of Rejecting Expert Advice

This is a joint posting with Peter Timmer.
This past weekend, the New York Times published a provocative story titled "Ending Famine, Simply By Ignoring the Experts" (login required), about how Malawi has rescued itself from endless cycles of famine. The Times argued that Malawi accomplished this seemingly impossible goal by ignoring experts from the World Bank and rich-country aid organizations who have insisted that Malawi should cut back or eliminate its subsidies on fertilizer. But Malawi's newly elected president, Bingu wa Mutharika, did just the opposite--he reinstated and deepened the subsidies, which in turn increased yields and resulted in exports of corn to neighboring countries. Was the president right to do this?

China, Twenty Years After

”LawrenceTwenty years ago this month I left China under less than ideal circumstances: I was one of a handful of reporters expelled during a crackdown on the incipient student democracy movement. After a dozen years of close involvement with China, first as a student, then as a tour guide, and finally as a journalist, I was suddenly cut off from the country, unable to return.

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